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Breaking down UFC 109: Randy Couture vs. Mark Coleman

After losing in front of his daughters in 2006, Coleman took leave of absence to focus on them

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Las Vegas Sun

Light heavyweight Mark Coleman has his hands wrapped before a workout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Wednesday, February 3, 2010. Coleman will take on Randy Couture in UFC 109 at the events center on Saturday.

UFC 109: Prefight Presser

Final thoughts from the headliners before Saturday's UFC 109.

Click to enlarge photo

To calm the tears and fears of his daughters, Mark Coleman repeats over and over that "Daddy's OK. Daddy's OK," after being defeated by Fedor Emelianenko in the second round of their heavyweight bout at Pride Fighting Championships first U.S. event, "The Real Deal," at the Thomas & Mack Center. When his repeated reassurance that "Daddy's OK, it's all over. It's all over. Daddy's OK. Let's go have some fun now," failed to completely calm the girls, Coleman took them to center ring and introduced them to the man who turned his face into a bloody pulp. Then, after a minute or two of talk, Coleman playfully tagged the Russian champion with light tap to the chin and then raised his arms in victory.

It's not that Mark Coleman wasn't always dedicated to being a good father to his two daughters before 2006.

But it's true the responsibility took on a new meaning for him that year.

One of the most infamous pictures ever taken by the Las Vegas Sun is of a battered Coleman, trying to calm his two daughters who had rushed to the ring following his second-round loss to Pride heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko in 2006 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Although Coleman would argue with anyone who says the experience permanently traumatized his daughters, who are now ages 12 and 10, he says that the experience did make a permanent change in him.

"It forced me to turn my attention from fighting to parenting very fast," Coleman said. "A lot of people thought they were sitting ringside and I do admit, that would have been incredibly stupid as a parent to have them sitting ringside. They weren't. They were backstage and I had said they could come ringside if I was OK.

"I was OK, and my kids are tough. They're not scared and they talk highly about that week. But you bring people to a fight you want to go to war with and I don't want to go to war with my kids."

Following that loss to Emelianenko, Coleman didn't have a professional mixed martial arts fight for more than two years.

Instead of jumping back into the UFC and working to reclaim the heavyweight belt he won in 1997, Coleman became a full-time dad to his girls in Columbus, Ohio.

The decision cost him a chance at rising to the top of the UFC as it underwent some of its biggest growth in the last decade, but Coleman says he has no regrets about leaving.

"I'm a father first," Coleman said. "I had two daughters and I had to raise them. I haven't really had many training camps because I couldn't stand to leave them. I didn't trust anyone with my kids.

"I missed out on a lot of opportunities but, at the same time, I'd never give back what I got. I got to see them grow up. There's nothing more important than seeing your kids grow up."

Now that his daughters are old enough to understand what their father was giving up, Coleman said, he's received their blessing to take time away from them and refocus on his fighting career.

His renewed commitment showed in his last fight, as he posted a unanimous decision win over Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100 in a fight few were giving him a chance to win.

Coleman spent time at Xtreme Couture working with Shawn Tompkins before that fight and decided to have a similar camp in preparation for today's meeting with Randy Couture.

After making sure his daughters realized he wasn't leaving for good, Coleman left Ohio for a 50-day camp at the Tapout Gym in Las Vegas, where Tompkins has since relocated.

With 100 percent of his focus back on his career, Coleman's confidence is constantly growing and he says, win or lose, he believes he still has plenty to offer to MMA in the next few years.

Even though he'll enter Saturday's fight as a heavy underdog, Coleman has the advantage of knowing that his heart is in competing again unlike ever before.

"I deserve to be an underdog with some of the performances I've had in the past," Coleman said. "But I haven't always been able to give 100 percent to the sport. I've had to focus on other things. For the Bonnar fight, I was able to get away from Ohio and put a nice training camp together.

"If I'm able to put a good camp together, I pose a threat to anybody out there."

Quick Hits:

With two of the finest wrestlers in all the UFC going at it, it may be the more well-rounded fighter who comes out on top.

Both Couture (17-10) and Coleman (16-9) are elite wrestlers, and both love to ground-and-pound their way to victories.

With the chance that the fighters will cancel out each other's wrestling, it's possible Saturday's main event could turn into a standup battle.

"I think it could go that way," Couture said. "I definitely feel like I have a different style of wrestling that implements well to my fight style. He's always been a guy that tries to find the double leg and put a guy on his back. I have to be attentive in there and don't stand right in front of him."

It's a safe bet that both fighters would look at a successful takedown and top position would be the ideal place to the put the fight.

Coleman is an especially difficult guy to get to the ground, as he's only been taken down once in his entire professional career, according to fight statistics company Fightmetrics.

If it does turn into a stand-up war, the advantage clearly goes to Couture, who has shown to be the more accurate and technical striker throughout his career.

Last Time Out:

Couture: Unanimous decision win over Brandon Vera at UFC 105.

Coleman: Unanimous decision win over Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100.

The Lines: Couture, -500; Coleman, +350

Final words:

Couture: On the possibility of receiving a title shot at either Lyoto Machida or Rua: "That would be cool. I'd love to fight either one of those guys. They are certainly the top guys in the weight class. Machida has the belt and so he's got the target on his back. I've got to go where the best opponent is. If something else presents itself in the heavyweight division, I'd entertain that as well."

Coleman: On staying positive after losing fights: "If losing a fight is the worst thing that ever happens to you in life, you're doing pretty well. There's no other way but to come back and fix what went wrong. You make adjustments and you try to make it right. You'd be a loser if you just stay down on yourself. I don't consider myself a loser. I've made adjustments to come back and win fights."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Also follow him on twitter: LVSunFighting.

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